By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
To get better at something, you sometimes have to increase your level of difficulty setting.
I sometimes get to lead cowboy church at a bull riding practice pen on Sunday afternoons. Most recently, a guy showed up with another bull rider who had never been on a bull before. He asked if he could get on the biggest bull they had. He didn’t do it in front of everyone to call attention to himself and there was no one there for him to impress. If he was going to try bull riding, this guy decided he needed to be all-in.
That illustrates one simple point we know from different teachings in scripture about the need to be committed, serious and all-in when it comes to our faith.
But here’s where it takes an important turn.
The producer and stock contractor was frustrated because he has an amateur division of bull riders who never turn out to practice. They typically buck the more rank bulls at the practice pen with the purpose being to help the riders get better. The frustration comes when these guys have ridden 50 or more bulls at the amateur level and won’t come to the pen to get on stock that is actually less likely to hurt them and more likely to help the build their skills.
Many seem to just seem content keeping it easy. Many of us do the same thing with our Christianity.
Hebrews 5 12-14 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
In these verses, the author, possibly Paul, is urging Christians to move from milk to solid food, meaning he wants to see them growing in their knowledge of Jesus Christ and what he had to teach.
Back at the practice pen, the new guy had an amazing experience and while he wishes he had wore a helmet, indicated he would the next time. He jumped into the sport at a harder level and even though he got banged up a little, he’s coming back for more.
You’re only going to learn so much getting on the jump-kicker bulls, you stand a better chance of falling off underneath one and getting hurt and unless you get on some ranker stock, you’re never going to get past that level.
We know as Christians that we will never be perfect like Jesus here in this life. But we know that we’re going through a process that will help us to become more like him, called sanctification. We can sit back and rest in our salvation and resist digging into God’s word and trying to apply it to our lives and situations and God will still welcome us.
But why would we want to settle and not have the chance to be at least a little more like Jesus now?
That’s why Paul urges us to get off milk and onto solid food, practicing what we’re learning and become more Christ-like as we train ourselves here and now for eternity in Heaven.
Back at the practice pen, we’re training ourselves to move up into professional competition where some will become world champions at the NFR or PBR. In our faith, we’re training ourselves to be more like Jesus.
We can understand the basics in scripture, milk, or we can dig in and let God’s word change us as we understand it more, being fed solid food. Solid food is what prepares us to deal with the challenges and consequences of living in
Or we can just keep getting on jump kickers and never be more than an amateur bull rider.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
With the recent passing of the Queen of England, a lot of strong feelings were expressed from both liberal and conservative views, either attacking abuses of colonialism or stirring the patriotic feelings of American independence and a desire to have nothing to do with the monarchy.
There’s a reason though for Christians to think bigger than those thoughts and to be reminded that while we have to fight to preserve our beliefs here, there’s more to our faith than that. The United States isn’t the only country where Christians exist and where non-believers need to hear the gospel, who Jesus was and is and how his death on the cross gives us a way, through belief and repentance, to be saved from our sin and given eternal life in Heaven.
The Constitution gives us the freedom to practice Christianity but it also gives people the freedom to celebrate other religions as well. That’s why it’s important that we share our faith with others both here and abroad.
And it’s the Constitution that gives us the freedom to carry out the Great Commission, which was Jesus’s call to all believers to tell others about him in the hope they would find a saving faith in Jesus and the salvation from eternal punishment meant for our sins that only he can give.
So why should we care about the death of a queen through all of this?
It can serve as a reminder of a couple important things about our faith.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Whether we liked her or not, the Queen of England was placed there by God. The worst of the world’s leaders and the best of them are all authorities that have been placed there by God.
And whether they know it or not, they are to submit to His authority as well. That means, yes, we do respect their authority and even though we might not like all the rules and laws, we respect the ones that don’t contradict God’s commands for us and cause us to go against the Bible. That’s uncomfortable for a lot of us but again, in the United States, it means we have a Constitution that gives us the freedom to practice our beliefs and the right to tell others about Jesus. But it also means that our leaders, no matter what their beliefs, are still subject to God and face the eternal consequences of the choices they make in how they lead their people and whether they ever believe in salvation through Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:10-11 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We like to see immediate consequences. It’s hard for us to grasp how short our time is here and what eternal suffering will be like for those who reject Jesus Christ.
Whether a king or queen, a wealthy oil baron or a person struggling to buy their first horse in southwestern Texas, we all have the same opportunity to believe in Jesus and in the end, when it’s too late for salvation, even those who didn’t believe will realize Jesus is Lord.
By Scott HIlgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
National Day of the Cowboy is our chance to celebrate the cowboy culture and its rich and storied history from the expansion of the America west to the rise of ranching and rodeo. That event is celebrating at the end of every July through the efforts of a non-profit organization that even received recognition for the day from the federal government.
It’s a time to celebrate who we are as cowboys whether it’s the ranch foreman or the rodeo rider. And regardless of the profession, both sides of the industry come with strong cultural identities and a sense of pride. Most of us live and breathe what it means to be a ranch or rodeo cowboy. We may also see ourselves as fathers and mothers or artists and leather workers. The biggest parts of our lives often become what defines us and how we see and describe ourselves. There is such uniqueness to the professions in rodeo and ranch work that we adopt many parts of those lifestyles into our home lives from how we decorate to the pictures we put on the wall. We surround ourselves with paraphernalia that represents the cowboy culture.
But what about our Christianity?
Many of us do the same things, particularly with the image of a cross from one hanging around our necks to one hanging on the wall in our homes. Who we are in Christ should be the most important way we see ourselves because of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Wow, that’s just part of who I am as a follower of Jesus, forgiven for my sin by a saving faith in Jesus. By believing who Jesus was and is and by repenting of my sin and asking to be forgiven, I’m made right before God and seen by Him in the way Peter describes in that verse. Any sin, big or small in our eyes equally separates us from God. But through that saving faith in Jesus, we no longer face God’s judgment and wrath that condemns us to Hell, but are given a perfect eternity in Heaven.
When our faith is real, we begin to see ourselves more like Jesus and less like we used to be. We have a desire to become more like Jesus, learning from the Bible what’s asked of us and wanting to do that, not because it can earn us any more than the salvation we’ve received but because of our understanding of what has been given to us. How can we not want to be more like the one who saved us?
We may start to make different choices in how we live or treat people, but we don’t give up being cowboys; instead, we become something more with the Holy Spirit working within us.
Part 5 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
“Well Jesus ate with sinners!”
That can be the Biblical statement someone uses to justify the sinful actions that come from spending time with ‘sinners’ instead of other Christians.
And Jesus would have eaten with unbelieving rodeo cowboys or sat around a fire in the Old West with cowboys passing through on a cattle drive. But scripture warns us to not be unequally yoked with non-believers
2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
Paul is clear that light, Christians, can’t have fellowship with darkness, non-believers. He isn’t saying we can’t spend time with them, but he’s saying we can’t be tied tightly to them or they will hold us back and draw us away from Jesus.
We know our saving faith in Jesus separates us from the world but Jesus also commands us to interact with that same world and that’s the example he set.
Matthew 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
People use these verses to justify engaging in sinful behavior or to criticize Christians for judging others when they stress the importance of not engaging in sin. Within the verses, the Pharisees, also criticize Jesus for sitting with sinners. They were the religious elite at the time that were trying to ruin Jesus because he was turning their power structure upside down with his teaching.
But the point of Jesus being with them was for them to be able to come to a saving faith and ultimately be forgiven of their sin so they could enter into Heaven. He uses the example of a doctor treating the sick, not the unhealthy to explain the need to spend time with unbelievers.
And he later commands us to literally go everywhere in the world to tell unbelievers about him in what we know as The Great Commission.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To do this, we can’t just hang around with the handful of Christians we know at a rodeo or horse event; we have to get to know everyone to be able to tell them about Jesus. But you have to remember, Jesus wasn’t there just to have a good time; he was there with purpose and because he is Jesus, he wasn’t tempted to sin the way we can be.
That’s why it is important to be surrounded by other Christians, to help us grow in our faith while we’re engaged in the unbelieving world around us.
Part 3 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
From teachings from Jesus, Paul and Peter to how God instructed the Israelites to remain separate from the other cultures around them, the Bible shows us in many ways that we are not meant to be a part of the world and culture around us.
The Israelites were commanded to completely destroy entire nations and when they failed to do so, they experienced the consequences of it.
Judges 2:1-3 The angel of the Lord … said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 … they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”
By allowing some of the nations to survive, the Israelites were eventually influenced by their false gods and beliefs, leading them to stray from following God and eventually to God temporarily taking the Promised Land away from them and exiling them for 70 years to Babylon. God wasn’t fooling around when He said He wants all of our attention.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”
Worldly things can be just about anything from money and sex to filling a tack room with more equipment than we’ll ever be able to use. All of it is temporary. Instead, John is reminding us that we need to pursue God, who, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, made a way for all of us to be able to repent and be forgiven of our sin so that through belief in Jesus, we could have an eternity in Heaven. Pursuing our own desires based on what the culture around us tells us we need or wants, takes our attention away from God.
One of the main reasons we stay apart from the world is so that our focus is on God.
Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
In the Psalm, we’re being told the person who follows God and not the non-believers around him is going to be the person who is better off and stresses the daily commitment we’re to put into following God. The Bible is full of teaching that points us toward obedience to God but the selfishness of the world around us can tempt us away from that.
We can be fully engaged in our rodeo sports while not being engaged with those who tempt us to sin. That can be as simple as not going to the bar after a show to as complicated as having to remove some people from our lives because they pull too hard on us to ignore our faith.